Isn't surrogacy illegal in the UK? No it isn't! In fact Parliament debated surrogacy reform in July 2016 as although it is legal, it is woefully inadequate and trails far behind many other countries.
It is however illegal to pay a surrogate in the UK, except for their reasonable expenses however. Since April 2010 it has also been possible for same-sex couples to undertake surrogacy in the UK. However this fact is still not always understood and there are many people who still do not realise that UK surrogacy is now an option more many, and not just for married couples.
However, the laws currently in place around surrogacy in the UK were written in the 1980s, and many leading fertility lawyers agree that they are in desperate need of change, and the sooner the better.
Because the UK law is not adequate, thousands of surrogacies are taking place abroad in countries such as the US and Canada where the process is much more stable. However whilst their laws are stronger, this can have quite a financial burden on the intended parents (IP) and bring about their own set of challenges.
Under current UK law, surrogates are the legal mother of any child they carry, even if they are not genetically related, unless they sign a parental order after they give birth transferring their rights to the intended parents. Surrogacy contracts aren't enforced by UK law, even if a contract has been signed with the intended parents and they've paid for any expenses. This can result in a lot of uncertainty until six weeks after the birth. The surrogate could change their mind; the intended parents could change their mind. Many hospitals do not let intended parents be present at the birth as they are not legally related to the baby.
Under the current UK surrogacy laws at the moment of birth, the woman who gives birth to a child is regarded as the legal mother, regardless of the child's genetic origins. Her husband/partner, if she has one, is regarded as the legal father.
Parental orders are used to address parenthood issues following surrogacy. Like an adoption order, a parental order reassigns parenthood, extinguishing the parental status of the surrogate parents, and transferring full parental status and parental responsibility on both IP. However this cannot take place until six weeks after birth, so if any legal decisions need to take place, perhaps to resolve a tongue tie, or in some cases more serious medical attention; it is the responsibility of the surrogate to give her permission to doctors.
Square Peg Media are working with a team of organisations including Surrogacy UK and CMS Cameron McKenna to try to get surrogacy reform moving. In addition to meetings with MPs, a large focus on surrogacy is taking place at the Alternative Parenting Show this year. There are 5 seminars around various areas of surrogacy and several exhibitors who provide surrogacy services.
If you are interested in surrogacy, and the debate on surrogacy reform, why not pick up your free ticket to the Alternative Parenting Show which takes place in London on Saturday 24 September at the Royal College of Surgeons in Holborn. More details are available online: www.alternativeparenting.co.uk